Creative Conversations: Ivan Cash + Justin Gignac
In today’s Creative Conversation, Ivan Cash (YGX) and Justin Gignac (YG5) let out a primal scream before discussing the complexities of making both art and commercial work. Their interview comes from the YGX Annual.
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Justin Gignac: Hey. How’s it going?
Ivan Cash: Pretty good. So, I was thinking about how they’re recording this and there’s probably going to have to be a transcriber? I thought it would be funny if we had a few messages for the transcriber.
I thought it would be funny if we just screamed the whole time.
Justin: OKAY I CAN DO THAT!
Ivan: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Justin: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Justin: Congratulations on becoming a Young Gun.
Ivan: Thank you.
Justin: How old are you now? Did you just make it, or are you super-young?
Ivan: I’m kind of in between. I’m 26.
Justin: Oh. Okay, you’re super young. That’s cool.
Ivan: Congratulations to you, man. I think the last time we chatted you had Working not Working in works.
Justin: Yes. That’s right
Ivan: It’s out and lively, and I’ve been getting hit up by people via the site.
Justin: Oh really? That’s good.
Ivan: Yeah, for sure. I did some stalking and saw that you just revived New York City Garbage.
Justin: I put it up last Friday to try to make some money in between and give the people what they want.
Ivan: It’s amazing, man. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but it might be my favorite project out of everything you’ve done.
Justin: Oh thanks.
Ivan: I know it’s so simplistic, and then I’ve read that you did it while you were a student.
Justin: Are you implying I’ve peaked?
Ivan: No, but I fucking love the simplicity and the brilliance. You’re taking something that people walk past every single day…and making it something of substance. I think there is really something to that.
Justin: I appreciate that. Thanks.
Ivan: I’ve got some really touchy questions that I want to ask.
Justin: Are they going to make me cry?
Ivan: I don’t know.
Justin: That would be hilarious.
Ivan: When people ask me what I do, I really struggle with this. I want to know what you say, that way I can copy you. Not that we do the same thing, but I notice on your website you have Projects on one end and Ads on the other. You keep those segregated? I also want to ask you about that, but what do you call yourself?
Justin: I used to have it all together. That was fine when I was an art director. I was working full-time for five years and I have been freelancing for the past five years. Honestly, all of my side projects get me most of my work, I think. I have the good ad stuff that proves I can do it, and I’ve done some smart work. If you put me up against someone else with a similar advertising book, I’ll probably get most of the jobs because people like that I have all these side projects and that I think beyond just ads. That really helps in our field that people are looking for that. People are looking for something different. That sounded really cocky, but it helps distinguish me. I used to consider myself an art director. I felt a little shy about calling myself an artist. Then, I realized, “No, I am an artist.” Between NYC Garbage and the paintings and everything else that I do…I call myself an artist first now.
Ivan: How is that received?
Justin: It’s hard. We grew up having a definition of an artist. Being from the commercial world, you almost feel a little dirty trying to call yourself an artist.
Ivan: What are your projections of artists?
”...you can be a smart-ass and still make a living and be respected.”
Justin: I guess I look up to good artists like Jasper Johns. His stuff actually got me on the path that I am. When I went to junior high school we did a day trip to MOMA and saw a Jasper Johns exhibit. One of his paintings is called False Start. It’s where the word red is painted in blue, and yellow is painted in green, and orange is painted in gray. Super conceptual stuff. Literally, as a 16-year-old kid, it blew my mind. It was a complete mind-fuck. I was like, wait, I’m seeing the thing and it’s painted a different color. It flipped a switch, and it made me realize that you can be a smart-ass and still make a living and be respected. I’m sure that wasn’t his intention, but it was something to me.
Ivan: Yes. It’s challenging preconceived notions. There’s a value in that.
Justin: Exactly. As soon as I saw that, it was hell for my teachers. Then, I always tried to find my way around whatever the assignment was. It’s amazing how that one experience and that one painting totally changed my path.
Ivan: Who is the happiest person you know and why?
Justin: Most kids are the happiest. I get really excited when I see cool kids hanging around in the city or on the subway. It’s so hard whenever you see a two-year-old in a stroller on the subway not to smile and interact with them. I think that’s something that’s really amazing. When I was a freshman in college, we had to do some sort of focus for our painting. I decided I wanted to have my three younger brothers, who were probably 9, 11 and 13 years younger than me, draw some of the things that I have to draw and then turn their drawings into paintings. The five-year-old had no problem doing it. It was the most amazing stuff I’d ever seen. My seven-year-old brother, some of his stuff was good but he had a hard time doing it. My nine-year-old brother got so frustrated the entire time because it didn’t look perfect, which was heartbreaking to me, because we all had that…they want the car to be perfect and they want anything they are doing to be perfect. It would be amazing to get to kids before that point and let them know that however they see the world is okay, and however they interpret it is okay, and not take the kid out of them, you know?
Ivan: Yeah. It sounds like it’s in the art you appreciate, and I’ll piggyback on and say the art I appreciate as well. There’s a level of recognizing things for how they are and not trying to alter them too much or over-think them, but just really indulge in these creative explorations without much filter.